Point: Billy Currington Is Country Music’s Most Underrated Live Act
2018 marks 15 years of Billy Currington, an artist who has more hits than you realize. The “Good Directions” singer has slowly cultivated a catalog for one express purpose: his live show.
Currington is not a Grammy winner, ACM or CMA winner, or a People’s Choice champion. The Georgian is not the first name you think of when it comes to major country music tours every summer. He’s headlined select shows and venues, but has mostly been reliable direct support — and one festival headliners would be smart to request.
Or maybe not. No one wants to be the second-best artist on the bill, and when Currington is on the lineup, that can happen. His live show is familiar, electric and polished. On stage the 43-year-old is the antithesis of the quiet, slightly awkward beefcake you’re unlikely to run into while honky-tonking or shopping in Music City. He’s a smooth, athletic, charmer. He is the party!
See Pictures of Billy Currington’s Live Show
Currington’s career path is an interesting study. His debut single was the autobiographical “Walk a Little Straighter,” a ballad that chronicled his abuse as a child and (perhaps) ripped open old scars. After that he decided he wasn’t about that life and went all-in on steamy, R&B inspired love songs (“Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right,” “Don’t,” “Let Me Down Easy”) and playful, melodic story songs (“Good Directions,” “People Are Crazy”). Most artists slowly evolve as they mature and experience new things. Currington has pretty much done the same thing since 2006.
Why change? His music is timeless in the most modern sense, and while he’s not earning nominations, he’s topping airplay charts and selling records. There’s a Glen Campbell quality to him in that he’s known as a singles artist instead of an album artist. Currington doesn’t seem to mind that distinction one bit.
Quick, name three of his albums!
Now name three songs not yet mentioned. Until you see him live, you don’t realize he’s reeled off over a dozen radio smashes. Most recently it’s “Do I Make You Wanna,” “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” and “Don’t It.” Prior to that it was “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” and “That’s How Country Boys Roll,” two songs that will unfortunately serve as part of his signature. This isn’t shade; both are delightful. He has just written and recorded better.
The most underrated song in the underrated singer’s catalog is “We Are Tonight.” On paper the Sam Hunt co-write is a bro-country anthem, but live it’s an encore-worthy icon. Two-thirds of the way through you’ll wonder why your beer is spilling before looking down to see your feet involuntarily leaving the ground, like bopping around is needed to keep them from burning. “Love Done Gone” isn’t a singalong, it’s a scream-along. “Good Directions” is one of the best songs of the 21st century. Fifteen songs you know and love, plus a handful of smart covers makes for a pretty great 60 to 90 minutes of summer fun.
Unsaid is that with nearly two decades of live experience, Currington and his band are more seasoned than dependable headliners like Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Hunt and Miranda Lambert (all great for their own reasons). Give credit to his record label for helping him choose songs that move the needle commercially and in concert. But a true explanation for his success starts and stops with his ego. He hasn’t allowed it to steer his career. Currington stays in his always-freshly-paved lane, making subtle changes to get around the bends and trends in the road instead of deciding he wants to chase industry and critical acclaim.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point/Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Sept. 20 for another installment.
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